Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Susan Lindee — Rational Fog


Closed-captioning available on Youtube.

In this episode of Perspectives, we talk with M. Susan Lindee, author of Rational Fog: Science and Technology in Modern War.

In Rational Fog, Susan Lindee explores how war and military funding transformed science, technology and medicine. She discusses the ways in which thousands of scientists, engineers, and physicians justified creating technologies of war, or instead rebelled against the use of science for such pursuits. Indeed, as Lindee reminds us, scientific societies have defended science as a uniquely positive endeavor dedicated to the "welfare of mankind," all while many of their members have pursuit chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons research for the purpose of human injury and death.  

Lindee prioritizes the victims of the increasingly scientific wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, noting that atomic bomb casualties, gunshot victims, propaganda and terror targets, and others who are maimed, injured, or killed in war, are often left out of the history of wartime science and technology. And, as science and technology have advanced alongside - and often because of - growing national defense budgets, Lindee asks whether this is the best use of our precious intellectual resources; as she notes, "technologies and sciences associated with the production of human injury have absorbed the energy and the intelligence of some of the smartest people ever to live." 

To cite this content, please use footnote:

M. Susan Lindee, interview, Perspectives, Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, February 15, 2021, https://www.chstm.org/video/111


M. Susan LindeeM. Susan Lindee is Janice and Julian Bers Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. 




Insights from the Collections

The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of military science and technology, the history of modern warfare, and the lives of scientists involved in military science and those opposed to war-related research. 

Our cross-institutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials. 

Search the Consortium search hub.

Some archival materials related to this topic include:

Milislav Demerec Papers, American Philosophical Society 

Theodosius Dobzhansky Papers, American Philosophical Society

Bentley Glass Papers, American Philosophical Society

Emanuel Ruben Piore Papers, American Philosophical Society

Edward G. Ramberg Papers, American Philosophical Society 

Sperry Gyroscope Company Division Records, Hagley Museum and Library

See also recent work from our fellows:

Jonson Miller, Engineering Manhood: Race and the Antebellum Virginia Military Institute

Erin Corrales-Diaz, Remembering the Veteran: Disability, Trauma, and the American Civil War, 1861-1915

Douglas O'Reagan, Taking Nazi Technology: Allied Exploitation of German Science after the Second World War